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Christmas murals celebrating geek culture

Art teacher Robin Thibodeau and her students offer a unique perspective for the 12 days of Christmas.
Municipal murals 4480
Megan White paints a mural in the glass facade of the Okotoks Municipal Centre on Nov. 15. White was one of a group of art students painting under their art teacher Robin Thibodeau. (BRENT CALVER/Western Wheel)

Mythical creatures adorning the windows in the Okotoks’ municipal centre illustrate Christmas from the perspective of the younger population.

A dozen teens helped to paint 12 windows on the east end of the municipal centre the past three weeks, creating their own take on the 12 days of Christmas from the perspective of geek culture. The depictions include Harry Potter, Pokémon, Norse mythology, Chinese folklore and dragons, among others.

The Town commissioned art teacher Robin Thibodeau to create the window murals this year. Thibodeau worked with youth to create two murals for the youth centre in the basement of the Okotoks Recreation Centre the past two years, and recently completed a gingerbread-themed mural at the Okotoks Art Gallery for its Gingerbread Station.

“I like murals and I love doing things with kids,” said Thibodeau. “It gets kids involved in community events. It’s great for the students to be in the public and get recognized for their skills outside of the house.”

Thibodeau invited her students to brainstorm ideas relating to geek culture for the mural, hoping the murals would appeal to a younger audience.

“It’s cool to be a geek nowadays,” she said. “I’m a big fan of geek stuff.”

Thirteen-year-old Gabby Vandal, who helped brainstorm ideas and paint the images, said she and her peers came up with 12 stories they wanted to tell from a fantasy point of view.

“These are the best things that relates to what we like,” she said. “It’s fantasy and realistic at the same time.”

Using chalk markers and tempera paint, the youth got together for three consecutive Friday afternoons painting the windows just in time for Light Up Okotoks.

Vandal, a student of Thibodeau’s for about seven years, took a break from art classes this year to focus on sports. When she heard Thibodeau was looking for volunteers to assist with the window murals - after helping create one of the youth centre murals - Vandal was on board.

“Every opportunity I can get to come back to it is great,” she said. “It’s good to get together with other people and mix ideas together to make one big masterpiece.”

Vandal said window painting is similar to watercolours – her favourite medium – due to its water base.

“I’ve never painted a window before, it was a new experience,” she said. “I’ve really enjoyed it.”

Twelve-year-old Maddie Maher, who’s been taking art classes with Thibodeau since she was in preschool, said the abundance of activity at the municipal centre the past three Friday afternoons aroused a lot of curiosity by passersby.

“People were saying, ‘What’s happening’ and ‘It’s really good,’” she said. “Little kids were pointing at it like ‘What is that?’ People don’t expect it so they’re really surprised when they see it.”

Maher, who has sketchbooks full of her drawings of people, created the mural depicting mermaids. The biggest challenge for Maher was drawing from the inside what most people will be viewing from the outside.

“You have to write every word and number backwards,” she said.

About the Author: Tammy Rollie

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